Coaching soccer in North Platte has truly become a family affair.
And now this week’s state tournament will be, too.
The Bulldog boys and girls — state qualifiers together for just the second time in school history — are coached by the brother-sister duo of Danny Whitney and Sarah Kaminski.
“It’s chaotic and it’s emotional,” Whitney said with a laugh, “but it’s a part our family’s experiences.”
The next couple of days at Morrison Stadium will be all that and more as Kaminski and the North Platte girls open tournament play Wednesday against Millard North. Just a little more than 24 hours later, Whitney’s Bulldog boys draw top-ranked Omaha South in Thursday’s quarterfinals.
Quite the family trip to Omaha.
“It’s been an amazing last couple of weeks,” Kaminski said. “And the excitement just kind of keeps building.”
Both teams hosted district tournaments last week. On back-to-back days Kaminski’s girls won an overtime thriller and Whitney’s boys lost a 1-0 heartbreaker.
The two rode the roller coaster together.
“She shares and celebrates the success that we have and she’s hurt with us when things don’t go our way,” Whitney said.
Added Kaminski: “Danny’s probably my biggest supporter.”
Both played on state tournament teams for North Platte — Kaminski in 1994, Whitney in 1998 — and have led Bulldog squads there as coaches.
The two are branches on the Whitney coaching tree. Their dad, Jim, started the North Platte soccer program in 1990 after moving the family from Omaha to take an assistant principal job.
But he wasn’t even the first coach in the family. That distinction goes to Patty Whitney, Jim’s wife, who was Danny Whitney’s youth coach.
“And now it’s everyone around her that’s involved in it,” Whitney said. “In a lot of ways I think she has to handle the most stress and anxiety.”
The entire family dealt with plenty of both leading up to the release of the state tournament brackets over the weekend.
After losing in a Thursday district final, the Bulldog boys had to sweat out a wild card that wasn’t locked up until Lincoln Southwest won its district the following night.
Danny Whitney, the youngest of three Whitney kids, said he was out to dinner with his family Friday night, constantly refreshing Twitter for updates.
“I was being the guy on his phone kind of ignoring everyone too much,” he said. “There was a little celebration when we found out.”
It would pale in comparison to the type of party an upset or two this week would set off. Some of the state’s top programs stand in the way, though.
South is in its ninth straight state tournament, looking for its third title in that stretch. North Platte’s boys, making the program’s fifth appearance at state, are seeking their first win on the biggest stage.
As uphill of a battle as that may seem, the Bulldog girls may face any even tougher task. Millard North has won opening matches at state each of the past 12 years and has played for the title in eight of those seasons.
“We know what’s ahead. We know we’re going to be the underdog,” Whitney said, a notion that Kaminski agreed with. “We’re also both in a good place as programs where we’re not just content to be in a (district) final, not just content to be in the state tournament.
“We want to win the game.”
Whitney certainly knows where to go for a little advice. Jim Whitney has been Danny’s junior varsity coach the past five seasons. He’ll be on the sideline with his son on Thursday.
“He’s better than I was,” Jim Whitney said. “He’s brought the program back. The thing I really admire about him is his ability to communicate clearly to the kids and very positively motivate them. His saying is always be better today than we were yesterday.”
Under Danny Whitney the Bulldogs have put together four straight winning seasons. In the two years before he became coach North Platte was a combined 5-25.
Not to be outdone, Kaminski’s teams have won 11 or more games in six of the past seven seasons.
“I’m really proud of the kids,” Jim Whitney said.
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July 1: Air Force's Nic Ready hit a total of 55 home runs, including 21 in the final round, to edge Clemson's Logan Davidson in the College Home Run Derby.
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June 18: John Olson, and Mary Olson, of Joslyn, Missouri, take cover under ponchos during a rain delay at the College World Series. Weather provided a huge problem in the 2018 CWS.
June 15: Cam'ron Jones checks out Omaha.com, or perhaps Snapchat, during the Huskers' Friday Night Lights camp.
June 9: Terence "Bud" Crawford celebrates his knockout victory over Jeff Horn to win the WBO welterweight title.
May 19: Fremont's Lucas Arps celebrates after winning the Class A 400-meter dash.
May 19: Lincoln Lutheran's Josie Puelz celebrates after clearing 12-2 in the Class C girls pole vault final.
May 17: Omaha Roncalli's Thomas Alitz cheers after scoring the winning run in the Class B state championship on a hit by Logan McGill with two outs in the seventh inning.
May 17: Omaha Creighton Prep's Eric Allbery, right, jumps on the dogpile as the Junior Jays celebrate their Class A state baseball title.
May 16: South Sioux City celebrates after defeating Elkhorn South in the Class B state soccer championship.
May 16: Kearney's Christian Dakan hoists the Class A state soccer trophy alongside his teammates.
May 14: Millard North celebrates its Class A state championship win against Omaha Marian by kissing the trophy.
May 14: Elkhorn celebrates its Class B championship win against Omaha Skutt.
May 9: Creighton's Will Robertson celebrates with Jack Strunc, left, after homering the fifth inning. The Jays beat UNO 10-6.
May 6: The Omaha Storm Chasers play below the newly dedicated Steve Pivovar Press Box at Werner Park.
April 21: Nebraska coach Scott Frost leads the Huskers during the Tunnel Walk on Saturday.
April 19: Awardee Dante Pettis and former Nebraska football player Johnny Rodgers, right, pictured during the Jet Award dinner.
April 19: Former Nebraska football coach Tom Osborne attends the Jet Award dinner.
April 18: UNO's Malik Moore pitches against Nebraska. The Mavericks knocked off the Huskers for the first time since 1997.
April 11: Creighton's Will Robertson, left, and Thomas Luevano celebrate scoring on a triple by Jack Strunc.
April 11: Elkhorn South's Mo Gohr gains control of the ball in the Metro Conference tournament.
April 3: Scott Frost directs Husker football practice.
March 31: The boy campers pose for a photo at the Athletes' Training Center Futures Camp at Iowa West Field House.
March 27: Creighton defeats Nebraska 3-1 in the first matchup of the year.
March 25: Kansas' Malik Newman drives to the basket, drawing a blocking foul on Duke's Wendell Carter. The Jayhawks went on to defeat the Blue Devils in Omaha and advance to the Final Four.
March 17: Arizona State defeats Nebraska in the NCAA women's basketball tournament.
March 17: Nebraska Wesleyan celebrates winning the NCAA Division III men's basketball championship.
March 17: Creighton defeats Iowa in the NCAA women's basketball tournament.
March 17: Creighton's bench cheers as Michael Emodi hits a walk-off homer off Wichita State pitcher Chandler Sanburn in the Jays' home opener.
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March 3: Scotus' Maggie Feehan celebrates after winning the Class C-1 title.
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Feb. 25: Nebraska's Duby Okeke enters Pinnacle Bank Arena with his family at his side on senior night. The Huskers went on to defeat Penn State.
Nebraska's Duby Okeke enters Pinnacle Bank Arena with his family at his side on senior night.
Feb. 24: Creighton's Marcus Foster, left, and Davion Mintz celebrate Creighton's 89-83 overtime victory over Villanova.
Feb. 24: Omaha Creighton Prep's Colin LaFave competes in the 100 fly at the state swimming meet.
Feb. 24: Lincoln Southwest's Anna Heinrich, left, and Josie Ford celebrate their first and second-place finishes in the 50 free at the state swimming meet.
Feb. 17: Kearney’s Phillip Moomey is in the top 20 of his weight class in two national polls. Only a handful of underclassmen are ranked ahead of him.
Feb. 17: Omaha Burke's Jakason Burks does a backflip after defeating Millard South's Caleb Coyle during the 106-pound Class A final at the state wrestling championships.
Jan. 28: Omaha Lancers coach and General Manager David Wilkie talks with players during first-period action.
Jan. 26: UNO's Luke Nogard skates past the referee.
Jan. 16: Nebraska's Nicea Eliely gets excited during pregame introductions as the Huskers went on to beat Iowa.
Nebraska's James Palmer celebrates a home victory over Illinois with Isaiah Roby.
Jan. 9: Former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden, left, talks with former Nebraska coach Tom Osborne during the Outland Trophy banquet.
Jan. 4: Omaha Burke's Shereef Mitchell brings the ball up court in the Metro holiday tournament.
Jan. 1: In his final game with Central Florida, now-Nebraska coach Scott Frost raises the Peach Bowl title after defeating Auburn.